World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. President Vince McMahon appears in the ring during the WWE Monday Night Raw show at the Thomas & Mack Center on August 24, 2009 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Ethan Miller | Getty Images
At Vince McMahon’s World wrestling entertainment is in advanced talks to be sold to Ari Emanuel’s Endeavor Groupthe UFC’s parent company, according to people familiar with the matter.
A deal could be announced as early as Monday. The UFC and WWE are expected to form a new publicly traded company as part of the deal, according to the people, who declined to be named due to the confidential nature of the discussions.
Endeavor is expected to own 51% of the new combat sports and entertainment company, while WWE shareholders will get 49%, according to the people. The Endeavor deal gives WWE an enterprise value of $9.3 billion, they said.
Emanuel, a media executive, is expected to act as managing director of Endeavor and the new company. McMahon, similarly, is expected to serve as executive chairman, while Endeavor chairman Mark Shapiro will also serve in the same role in the new company. Dana White will remain president of the UFC, while WWE CEO Nick Khan will serve as president of the wrestling business.
The development comes the same weekend that WWE is hosting its flagship live event, WrestleMania, in California. The company spent several months looking for a buyer. McMahon returned to the company as chairman in January to oversee the process. Shares of WWE are up over 33% so far this year, giving it a market value of over $6.79 billion.
The deal will effectively end WWE’s decades-old status as a family business. McMahon’s father founded WWE in its original incarnation in the mid-20th century, and McMahon is the company’s majority shareholder. McMahon bought the company from his father in 1982. Since then, the company has become a global phenomenon, featuring stars like Hulk Hogan, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Dave Bautista and John Cena.
McMahon, 77, retired from the company in July following a series of revelations that he paid multiple women several million dollars over the years to keep them quiet about affairs and misconduct presumed. His daughter, Stephanie McMahon, became co-CEO alongside Khan. Paul Levesque, who is both the husband of Stephanie McMahon and the wrestler known as Triple H, has taken over creative duties from Vince McMahon.
When Vince McMahon returned in January, Stephanie McMahon stepped down and Khan took on the full role of CEO. The eldest McMahon recently agreed to a two-year contract, according to a securities deposit.
In recent weeks, Khan has toured the media discussing the potential sale. He told CNBC’s Morgan Brennan on Thursday that the sales process had been solid, attracting many interested buyers.
WWE brings with it a strong media and live events business, as well as its decades of intellectual property. The company generated $1.29 billion in revenue last year, mainly leads through its billion-dollar media unit.
The UFC paid off for Endeavour. Last year, the MMA league helped Endeavor’s sports business generate $1.3 billion in revenue. Endeavor’s market capitalization was approximately $10.53 billion as of Friday’s close. The Endeavour-WWE deal values the UFC at over $12 billion.
WWE, at least at a glance, would also fit well with the Endeavor and UFC cultures. McMahon has a brash public persona, making him a seemingly good match for Emanuel and White, who are also known for their oversized personalities.
White, like McMahon, is also no stranger to scandal. Earlier this year, a video emerged showing the UFC boss slapping his wife during a public argument at a New Year’s Eve party in Mexico. White apologized.
Disclosure: Peacock, the streaming service owned by CNBC’s parent company, NBCUniversal, airs WWE events such as WrestleMania.